Jay Z – The War on Drugs: From Prohibition to Gold Rush The four-minute work, narrated by Jay Z, is part history lesson and part vision statement. He maps the devastation caused by the war on drugs and raises important questions about economic equity in the emerging above-ground marijuana industry. Molly Crabapple, celebrated artist, activist and author, hand painted and animated the video with her distinctive style.
The DEA: Four Decades of Impeding and Rejecting Science The case studies compiled in this report illustrate a decades-long pattern of behavior that demonstrates the agency’s inability to exercise its responsibilities in a fair and impartial manner or to act in accord with the scientific evidence – often as determined by its Administrative Law Judges.
The following case studies are included in this report:
- DEA Obstructs Marijuana Rescheduling: Part One, 1973-1994
- DEA Overrules Administrative Law Judge to Classify MDMA as Schedule I, 1985
- DEA Obstructs Marijuana Rescheduling: Part Two, 1995-2001
- DEA Overrules Administrative Law Judge to Protect Federal Monopoly on Marijuana for Research, 2001-2013
- DEA Obstructs Marijuana Rescheduling: Part Three, 2002-2013
These case studies reveal a number of DEA practices that work to maintain the existing, scientifically unsupported drug scheduling system and to obstruct research that might alter current drug schedules. The DEA’s most common tactics include:
Failing to act in a timely fashion. The DEA took 16 years to issue a final decision to the first marijuana rescheduling petition, five years for the second, and nine years for the third. In two of the three cases, it took multiple lawsuits to force the agency to act. Similarly, in the case of a researcher seeking an independent supply of marijuana for research purposes, it took the DEA 12 years – and another lawsuit – to deny the request.
Overruling DEA Administrative Law Judges. A DEA Administrative Law Judge is a government official charged with evaluating the evidence on rescheduling and other matters before the DEA and making recommendations based on that evidence to the DEA Administrator. In three of the five cases – the first marijuana rescheduling petition, the decision to classify MDMA as Schedule I, and the case of the researcher seeking an independent marijuana supply – agency administrators overruled their Administrative Law Judges’ recommendations. In the cases of the scheduling of marijuana and MDMA, the judges determined that that they should be placed in Schedule II instead of Schedule I, where they would be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as prescription medicines, but still retain criminal sanctions for non- medical uses.
Creating a regulatory Catch-22. The DEA has argued for decades that there is insufficient evidence to support rescheduling marijuana or the medical use of marijuana. At the same time, it has – along with the National Institute on Drug Abuse – acted in a manner intended to systematically impede scientific research. Through the use of such tactics, the DEA has consistently demonstrated that it is more interested in maintaining existing drug laws than in making important drug control decisions based on scientific evidence.
Reference library of studies done re legalizing or not. From 1894 Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, the Panama Canal Zone Military Investigations, the LaGuardia Committee Report, and the Virginia Law Review’s The Forbidden Fruit and The Tree of Knowledge.
A.P.: The Drug War Is a Disastrous Failure by Jacob Sullum, Reason Magazine, May 14, 2010 “I have been the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance for ten years,” says Tony Newman, “and this is one of the hardest hitting indictments against the drug war I’ve ever seen.” I’ve been covering the war on drugs for more than 20 years, and I can’t recall seeing a more skeptical treatment of current policy in a news story from a mainstream media outlet. Still, the story implicitly favors a timid and probably inconsequential solution: shifting anti-drug money from interdiction and enforcement to “prevention and treatment.” The fact that Kerlikowske and the president who appointed him (an admitted drug user, as A.P. notes) officially favor such a shift speaks volumes about its limitations. As I’ve argued before, moving money around in the anti-drug budget does not necessarily produce a more effective, or even less repressive, policy. The only effective way to address the prohibition-related problems highlighted by the article—such as corruption, black-market violence, and diversion of law enforcement resources—is by repealing prohibition.
Nixon’s Vengeful War on Marijuana, by William John Cox, Consortium News, September 16, 2010 Who Benefited? The only victors in the war on drugs have been the criminals who have profited from illegal sales. There is an estimated $15 billion in illegal cannabis transactions each year just in California. These transactions are not taxed or regulated, and they serve as a massive subsidy to organized crime. …. Nixon’s war has been expensive; it also has been a failure; and it has caused great damage to the fabric of America society. The harm has been particularly felt by its young people who suffer up to 80 percent of the marijuana arrests and who are disproportionately African-American and Latino.
The New Jim Crow: How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent American Undercaste by Michelle Alexander, TomDispatch, March 8, 2010 The drug war has been brutal — complete with SWAT teams, tanks, bazookas, grenade launchers, and sweeps of entire neighborhoods — but those who live in white communities have little clue to the devastation wrought. This war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color, even though studies consistently show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. In fact, some studies indicate that white youth are significantly more likely to engage in illegal drug dealing than black youth. Any notion that drug use among African Americans is more severe or dangerous is belied by the data. White youth, for example, have about three times the number of drug-related visits to the emergency room as their African American counterparts.
Lost Taxes and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws by Jon Gettman Published in the October 2007 issue of The Bulletin of Cannabis Reform. Lost Taxes and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws
Government reports indicate that the nation’s marijuana laws cost taxpayers $41.8 billion annually. This calculation is based on (a) a reconciliation of estimates of the annual supply of marijuana in the United States and estimates of its overall value and (b) Office of Management and Budget (OMB) data on the share of the Gross Domestic Product diverted by regulatory taxes to US Government budgets.
Government reports from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Library of Congress, and other sources indicate that the supply of marijuana in the United States is 14,349 metric tons, or 31.1 million pounds. Various price indexes from public and private sources produce a retail price of $7.87/gr or $3,570/lb, setting the overall retail value of the illicit marijuana market at $113 billion.
The Office of Management and Budget reports that local, state, and the federal government receipts represent 28.7% of the gross domestic product as tax revenue. The diversion of $113 billion from the taxable economy into the illicit economy deprives taxpayers of $31.1 billion annually.
According to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, marijuana arrests consist of 5.54% of all arrests. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that total criminal justice expenditures in the United States in 2004, for example, were $193 billion. Marijuana arrests cost taxpayers $10.7 billion annually.
Federally-funded surveys indicate that marijuana has remained widely available over the last 25 years. The Monitoring the Future Survey indicates that since 1992 surveys report that at least 2 out of 5 eighth grade students, 2 out of 3 10th grade students, and 4 out of 5 high school seniors find marijuana widely available.
Despite marginal changes in annual data, marijuana use in the United States has remained fundamentally unchanged in the last decade and a half. Since the beginning of annual surveys on drug use, now called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 1990 the average level of annual marijuana use has been 9.3% (± 1%) of the population age 12 and over. In 1990 10.2% of this population used marijuana in the last year, and in 2005 annual usage was at 10.5%.
During this period the average monthly use of marijuana averaged 5.1% (± .6%). In 1990 monthly marijuana usage was at 5.1%; in 2005 monthly marijuana usage was reported by 6% of this population. During this period monthly use of marijuana by adolescents age 12 to 17 averaged 6.9% (± 1.6%). In 1990 monthly marijuana use was reported by 5.2% of this age group; in 2005 this age group reported monthly marijuana use by 6.8%.
“How America Lost the War on Drugs” By Ben Wallace-Wells Published December 13, 2007 Issue 1041 of Rolling Stone from the Archives. To Brown, RAND’s conclusions seemed exactly right. “I saw how little we were doing to help addicts, and I thought, ‘This is crazy,'” he recalls. “‘This is how we should be breaking the cycle of addiction and crime, and we’re just doing nothing.'” The federal budget that Brown’s office submitted in 1994 remains a kind of fetish object for certain liberals in the field, the moment when their own ideas came close to making it into law. The budget sought to cut overseas interdiction, beef up community policing, funnel low-level drug criminals into treatment programs instead of prison, and devote $355 million to treating hardcore addicts, the drug users responsible for much of the illegal-drug market and most of the crime associated with it. White House political handlers, wary of appearing soft on crime, were skeptical of even this limited commitment, but Brown persuaded the president to offer his support, and the plan stayed.
Still, the politics of the issue were difficult. Convincing Congress to dramatically alter the direction of America’s drug war required a brilliant sales job. “And Lee Brown,” says Bergman, his former legislative liaison, “was not an effective salesman.” With a kind of loving earnestness, the drug czar arranged tours of treatment centers for congressmen to show them the kinds of programs whose funding his bill would increase. Few legislators came. Most politicians were skeptical about such a radical departure from the mainstream consensus on crime. Congress rewrote the budget, slashing the $355 million for treatment programs by more than eighty percent. “There were too many of us who had a strong law-and-order focus,” says Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican who opposed the reform bill and serves as co-chair of the Senate’s drug-policy caucus.
For some veteran drug warriors, Brown’s tenure as drug czar still lingers as the last moment when federal drug policy really made sense. “Lee Brown came the closest of anyone to really getting it,” says Carnevale, the longtime budget director of the drug-control office. “But the bottom line was, the drug issue and Lee Brown were largely ignored by the Clinton administration.” When Brown tried to repeat his treatment-centered initiative in 1995, it was poorly timed: Newt Gingrich and the Republicans had seized control of the House after portraying Clinton as soft on crime. The authority to oversee the War on Drugs passed from Rep. John Conyers, the Detroit liberal, to a retired wrestling coach from Illinois who was tired of drugs in the schools — a rising Republican star named Dennis Hastert. Reeling from the defeat at the polls, Clinton decided to give up on drug reform and get tough on crime. “The feeling was that the drug czar’s office was one of the weak areas when it came to the administration’s efforts to confront crime,” recalls Leon Panetta, then Clinton’s chief of staff.
“It’s Time to Legalize Drugs“, by Ethan Nadelmann, Founder and Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “We Can Reduce the Demand for Drugs”
Good luck. Reducing the demand for illegal drugs seems to make sense. But the desire to alter one’s state of consciousness, and to use psychoactive drugs to do so, is nearly universal — and mostly not a problem. There’s virtually never been a drug-free society, and more drugs are discovered and devised every year. Demand-reduction efforts that rely on honest education and positive alternatives to drug use are helpful, but not when they devolve into unrealistic, “zero tolerance” policies.
“Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States” by Jeffrey Miron, Published June 2005. Visiting Professor of Economics Harvard University. Extensive writing in crime related to alcohol and drug prohibition. Collection of papers concerning economics.
Much has been written about the use of the War on Drugs to intentionally disenfranchise poor people and engineer the centralization of political and economic power in the U.S. and globally, including an explosive rise in the U.S. prison population. The purpose of this story is not to repeat this fundamentally sound thesis. For those who are interested in more on this topic, I would refer you to my article and audio seminar “Narco Dollars for Beginners” as well as Michael Woodiwiss’ book Organized Crime and American Power (University of Toronto Press, 2001) and their associated bibliographies.
What most people miss is the extent to which the day-to-day implementation of this intentional centralism is deeply pervasive and therefore deeply bipartisan. It receives the promotion and support from all political and social spectrums that make money by running government through the contractors, banks, law firms, think tanks and universities that really run the government. My intention for this story is to make clear how the system really works. A system in which a small group of ambitious insiders — who more often than not were educated at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the other Ivy League schools — enjoy centralizing power and advantaging themselves. Paradigms of Republican vs. Democrat or Conservative vs. Progressive have been designed for obfuscation and entertainment. An endless number of philosophies and strains of religious and “holier than thou” moralism are really put on and taken off like fresh make-up in the effort to hide from view a deeper, uglier face. One person who may have described it more frankly during the Clinton years was the former Director of the CIA, William Colby, who writing for an investment newsletter in 1995 said:
The Clinton Administration took the groundwork laid by Nixon, Reagan and Bush and embraced and blossomed the expansion and promotion of federal support for police, enforcement and the War on Drugs with a passion that was hard to understand unless and until you realized that the American financial system was deeply dependent on attracting an estimated $500 billion-$1 trillion of annual money laundering. Globalizing corporations and deepening deficits and housing bubbles required attracting vast amounts of capital.
Once-Secret “Nixon Tapes” Show Why the U.S. Outlawed Pot by Kevin Zeese, Alternate, March 21, 2002 It did not have to be this way. At the same time that the Shafer Commission issued its report, the Bain Commission in Holland issued a report that made similar findings and recommendations. In Holland, they followed the advice of their experts. Thirty years later Holland has half the per-capita marijuana use as the U.S., far fewer drug-related problems and spends much less on drug enforcement. With statistics like that, it’s no wonder that most of Europe is going Dutch. Just last week a British Commission issued a Shafer-like report, indicating that the U.K. is moving in the Dutch direction. It is not too late for the U.S. to move to a more sensible path. We are approaching three quarters of a million marijuana arrests annually. Every year that the U.S. fails to adopt a policy based on research, science and facts we destroy millions of lives and tear apart millions of families. Where will we be in another thirty years if we don’t change course and make peace in the marijuana war? Now that we know the war’s roots are rotten — and after we’ve lived through the decades of damage and failure it has produced — we should face the facts. The thirty-year- old recommendations of the Shafer Commission are a good place to start.
“Marijuana and the Law” by Eric Schlosser, Published September 1994 in The Atlantic Monthly. One of the great ironies of American drug policy is that anti-drug laws over the past century have tended to become most punitive long after the use of a drug has peaked. David Musto, a professor at Yale Medical School and the pre-eminent historian of American narcotics policy, explains that when drug use is at its height, so is tolerance; but as drugs recede from middle-class homes, their users are marginalized, scapegoated, and more readily punished. The price that society pays for harsh sanctions becomes invisible to most people. Musto thinks that our nation’s drug laws reflect cultural changes after the fact; though extreme punishments may help to limit a drug epidemic, the principal causes of its rise and fall lie elsewhere. This theory is supported by recent history. Marijuana use among the young peaked in 1979; strict federal laws were passed seven years later, when use had already fallen by 43 percent; and the explanation most young people gave for quitting marijuana was a concern about the perceived health risks, not fear of imprisonment. A drug culture is once again emerging on college campuses, despite the existence of draconian mandatory minimums. Twelve years after the current war on drugs was declared, some rough numbers may hint at its cost: $30 billion spent so far at the state, federal, and local levels to fight marijuana; two billion dollars’ worth of assets seized in marijuana cases; four million Americans arrested for marijuana offenses; a quarter of a million people convicted of marijuana felonies and sent to prison for at least a year. Statistics can only suggest a portion of the truth. As I learned from the families of inmates, the human costs are not so easily measured.